Monday, 4 February 2008

Blogging: evolution or devolution? Twitter takeover? - and some changes to ACE

At a recent Own-It event (which I'd flagged previously), there was an interesting talk on the development of blogging by Dan Hon, CEO of alternate reality games company six to start. Dan was previously involved with Mind Candy (where he helped develop Perplex City) and he originally trained as a lawyer.

The podcast of his presentation will be on Own-It's podcast page in mid March or so, or you can subscribe to their feed (what are feeds?; intro to podcasts). (The other talk, also well worth attending the event for, was on how to stay out of legal trouble in the UK if you post to or run a blog, forum or Web 2.0 site.)

Dan started blogging in around 2000, so he's a grandee in "internet time" terms. He was approached for the MindCandy job because of his blog.

He gave a brief history of the evolution of blogging, blogging tools, and the rise in the popularity of blogging since the introduction of Blogger which made the process of blogging much easier especially for non-techies.

I won't go into that - you can hear it on the podcast.

What I do want to go into is his account of the evolution of blogging, and where blogging is today.

Dan initially began blogging various interesting things about himself, e.g. playing alternative reality games, becoming moderator of the online community that played it. etc. Then he started his training and he couldn't blog about his work, so his blogging slowed down.

Now he mainly just posts Delicious links which are auto-published to his blog. He believes that that is the kind of thing being pushed out to blogs these days, even large team blogs. He feels there's a lot less original content out there now, especially on the commercial blogs like the Gawker Media ones (which includes Lifehacker and Gizmodo), Engadget etc, which cover specific areas.

Dan thinks that generally there's not much professional insight being added these days. Someone might blog that Apple has launched a new laptop, and then 70 or 80 other bloggers will say the same thing, with no real commentary, everyone just pointing to someone else. (One exception - John Gruber a professional blogger who sometimes writes long articles about Apple; his subscribers pay to get his material via feeds rather than just the website.)

Dan believes it's a different discipline to write original content now, so lots of blogs are moving to just posting links, one liners etc.

He thinks you can see it even more with sites like micro-blogging service Twitter, which people are mainly using to get tiny bits of information to their friends in an easy way, in short bursts. Maybe Twitter is diverting the people who would have blogged before...

Certainly Dan himself doesn't really blog substantively anymore, he mostly just posts links.

Also, maybe it's not easy for people who live their lives online to separate out the info they don't want people to know about, so they don't say anything at all? E.g. in Dan's own case, where he can't blog about his work for commercial secrecy reasons.

Of course there's also lack of time, as well as the increasing number of different things people can now do online, besides blogging.

Still, writing about what he was interested in helped him to get a job doing exactly that. Even now, most of the developers he's hired for his startup are people whose blogs he's read, who he's corresponded with, so as an employer he's effectively had the benefit of a 3 year vetting period.

That's all got me thinking. I try to write original material for this blog, and I'm sure that's why Google's PageRank seems to rank ACE quite well in Google's search results - but it certainly takes a very long time to finish one of my detailed howtos.

I've been considering for a while interspersing my long posts with more newsy ones. I've been trying not to be like everyone else, trying not to just link to a bit of news, but waiting till I have time to do a full analysis may just mean I take too long to write something or don't write it at all. I often spot new stuff quickly, but I just don't blog much of it because I don't feel I've much analysis to add, or no time yet to add it.

Well, things will change: from now on I'll include a few posts that just point to recent developments of interest (including some random non-technology posts), without much if any commentary on them. But rather than just talk about another post, I'll still do my best to direct you to the horse's mouth, the primary source, whenever I can.

Please let me know what you think - not just about the type/style of content you'd like to see on ACE (though I'd certainly want to hear from anyone who would stop reading ACE if I switched to "short" newsy posts!), but also your own thoughts on the evolution - or devolution - of blogging, the philosophy of blogging, etc. Do you agree with Dan that blogging has changed? And do you think that's good - or bad?

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